I have said in the past that my elder teen would often come home and say something like, “oh Mum, we have a cake competition in Geography, (!!?!!) and I said I’d bake a volcano cake, showing lava and pyroclastic flow, it’s for tomorrow”. After I”d done a pretty good impression of said volcano the cake was made and was as realistic as a cake volcano could be. As a fellow teacher I’d'd like to have read the lesson plan that went along with that teaching session!
The following year I had a heads up so I suggested she (we) make a small village using our mini gingerbread house recipe, but then she realised the houses needed a little greenery to balance the environment, so that’s how these cakes came to be. As it was Christmas we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to decorate the cakes to make the whole hamlet as festive as possible.
Using a recipe for a Mr Whippy cupcake created so magnificently by Jules over at Butcher, Baker and one that I have adapted so many different ways, see the Olympic Torch cupcakes too, we set about making these Christmas tree cakes.
This time I decided to dip the cones in chocolate to give the trees more substantial trunks. The buttercream frosting was tinted using green colouring paste and piped with a star tip. Adding some edible icing dots, silver balls and a dusting of glitter finished them off well I believe. Easy to make, simple to decorate and an alternative to a traditional cake for those not fruit cake inclined.
A big steaming mug of hot chocolate is the liquid equivalent of a cuddle. Even the most ardent coffee fans occasionally succumb to a mocha. A squirt of cream and a scattering of marshmallows makes the drink into a feast. Add a chocolate stirrer and I’ll love you forever, well at least until the mug is drained. What is a chocolate stirrer? A big chunk of chocolate on a stick ready to be swooped through a hot beverage of your choice.
Now is your chance to share these delicious little treats by making your own. This isn’t really a recipe, simply the passing on of a quick, frugal, festive idea. You could very easily make these to give as gifts or keep a few in the cupboard ready to treat your nearest and dearest after a long Boxing Day walk.
One upside of making your own, apart from cost, is that you are in control of the chocolate quality and also flavours already in the chocolate or ones you might add to it.
On recent trip to LIDL. I’m a middle class professional, its in the job description. I spotted these flavoured chocolate bars at 69p each.. That’s when the idea for the stirrers came to me. On melting the chocolate I discovered that they contained pieces of candied orange peel or crystallised ginger. Just right.
Ingredients. 100g chocolate made 8 stirrers
Foil petit four cases
lolly sticks of some kind
- Using a bowl over a bowl of barely simmering water, the surface of the water should shiver in anticipation, melt the chocolate.
- Spoon the chocolate evenly between the foil cases.
- Allow to set for 20 minutes.
- Push the sticks into the setting chocolate.
- Make a big mug of hot chocolate, peel off the paper from the stirrer, put some cheesy Christmas tunes on, stir and relax.
- A cellophane bag, some ribbon and a dainty tag and you have gift too.
Since I discovered just how easy marshmallows are to make I’ve been hooked on making them. I love them all year round. I’ve used them to make a s’mores pie, plain marshmallows, mulled wine marshmallows, teacakes in both their hemispherical form and as a teacake traybake. I’ve used the leftovers as an ingredient for Rocky Road and popcorn balls, a recipe for which is below in the post.
How ever as I’m beginning to feel more festive, I decided to make marshmallows with a more christmassy flavour. I toyed with the idea of mince pie, and they may still happen but plumped for candy cane instead.
- Oil a large gratin dish, mine’s 6″ by 12″ and fill with the icing sugar and cornflour mix. Set to one side.
- Place the sugar, liquid glucose and 6 fl oz of water into a large heavy bottomed pan and slowly bring to the boil. Place the thermometer into the syrup and heat until it reaches 128c (hard ball stage). This will take several minutes.
- Whilst the syrup is heating take a tea cup and pour in the 4 fl oz of water. Sprinkle over the gelatine and allow to swell up (also known as sponging!) Pop the teacup into a deep bowl, pour the boiled water from the kettle around (not in!!!) the teacup and leave to sit until the gelatine has returned to a liquid state.You can give it a stir if you need to.
- Check the syrup, when it reaches the correct temperature take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Whisk in the liquid gelatine mixture a little at a time – it will foam up as you do this so take care – and pop to one side to cool a little. Don’t leave it too long or the gelatine will start to set!
- Whisk the egg whites to a soft peak and then continue whisking but add in the syrup slowly a little at a time. Continue to whisk until the whole of the syrup mixture has been added. Whisk on until the whole confection is stiff and thick.
- Add in peppermint extract until the mixture tastes minty but doesn’t resemble toothpaste!
- Keep whisking. You need a pour-able mixture that leaves a thick ribbon like trail. Take a little red gel on a cocktail stick and ripple through the mixture in the bowl.
- Scrape into the foam into the prepared dish. Set aside to cool before cutting. Overnight is good. Sprinkle the surface with the crushed candy canes. Popping the candy canes into a zip loc bag and hitting them with a rolling pin does this very efficiently! Cut into the marshmallows into squares and toss in the icing sugar/cornflour mixture still in the dish.
- Lay out a sheet of parchment on your work surface.
- Cook the popcorn according to the manufacturers instructions. Open the pack and allow to cool slightly.
- In a double boiler or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water melt the marshmallows.
- When completely melted, tip the popped corn into the marshmallow slurry and mix well to combine.
- Liberally smear your hands with butter. (I think I ought to send Nigella this recipe, can you imagine the resulting TV viewing figures!)
- Take a cricket or base ball sized lump of corn and fashion it into a sphere.
- Place on baking parchment and repeat with the rest of the mixture. (makes 10 balls approx)
- Take to the cinema and save yourself at least £7!
- If you want these to be festive you could decorate with stars, red and green sprinkles or glitter.
Unilever Kitchen have kindly sent me a selection of their products and have challenged me to share a recipe for serious comfort food to keep us warm and snug this winter. Having got a little fed up with sandwiches for lunch and not being organised enough to make a flask of soup or stew I decided to make some individual sausage plaits. The addition of herbs and honey mustard will give the dish the zing and warmth I’m looking for. Keeping to my theme of minimising waste, they are an excellent way to use up odds and ends of vegetables that otherwise might have to go towards the compost bin.
Makes 4 individual sausage plaits.
75g Stork margarine
160g plain flour
3 to 4 tbsp cold water
- In a large bowl rub the Stork into the flour and salt using the tips of your fingertips.
- When the mixture resembles breadcrumbs use a round ended knife to stir in the water a little at a time.
- Use your hands to bring the last of the pastry together, wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Whilst the pastry is resting make the filling for the sausage plaits. There are no hard and fast rules as to what this must contain. Once you have the sausage and the onion the rest depends on the bottom of your fridge. In my case I had a chunk of butternut squash that needed using. Equally a couple of tomatoes and a courgette would do the job as would half a pepper and a few mushrooms.
1/2 red onion finely chopped
a handful of vegetables finely chopped, I used butternut squash.
4 sausages, skinned (approx 250g)
1 Knorr herb infusions tub
2 tbsp water
4 tsp Maille Mustard with honey
1 egg beaten
1 tsp oil
- Heat the oil in a pan and sweat down the onion and vegetables, once beginning to soften add in the herb infusions pot and tbsp water.
Leave to cook for a further 5 minutes until the water has evaporated and the vegetables are softer. Leave to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 200c
- In a bowl place the sausage meat and the cooled vegetables. Use your hands to combine but don’t reduce to a mush. you want the texture of the ingredients to remain.
- Take the rested pastry from the oven and roll out until the thickness of a pound coin.
- Divide into four quarters.
- Spread a tsp of the mustard down the centre of each piece of pastry. Take a quarter of the sausage meat mixture and lay on top of the mustard.
- Make diagonal cuts in the pastry, overlap on the top of the mixture and place on a baking sheet.
- Brush liberally with egg wash.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
These can be eaten hot with a huge heap of steamed seasonal vegetables, warm with big mug of tea when the mid afternoon slump hits or cold with a squeeze of mayonnaise in a lunchbox.
I havedecided to also enter this into the Family Foodies challenge as it is Lunchbox ideas this month. Family Foodies is the brain child of Lou at Eat Your Veg although this month it is being hosted by Bangers and Mash.
For some strange reason which I have yet to fathom I have not felt much like cooking recently. I have of course kept going with the daily feeding of the gannets at Mintcustard Mansions but couldn’t really be bothered with doing anything else. These periods of inertia strike me from time to time, and I find it is better to go with it rather than force the issue.
The fog has lifted.
Reader, yesterday I baked.
And what way to start again. I have a cupboard full of baking ingredients, including some I brought back from my recent foray to the USA, and I will blog about those later this week but I saw something as I did my weekly shop that really caught my eye.
The fact that Sainsbury’s had these bags for just £1 instead of £2 made it even better. I have used and adapted the Creme egg brownie recipe by Eric Lanlard as the base of this recipe.
150gr unsalted butter cut in small cubes, 200gr chopped chocolate, 100ml fresh orange juice, 250gr caster sugar, 3 medium eggs, 100gr plain flour, 135g bag of Terry’s chocolate orange minis
- Preheat the oven to 180c. Grease and line a brownie tray with butter and baking paper.
- In a heat proof bowl melt the chocolate and butter over a pan of simmering water – make sure the bowl doesn’t touch the water.
- When all melted out of the bain marie stir in the sugar and orange juice.
- Beat the eggs with a fork and mix them into the mixture. When smooth fold in the sieved flour.
- Turn the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 15min. Remove from the oven and lay on the chocolate orange slices.
- Put back in the oven for another 10mins until the mixture is set, but still a bit sticky.
- Leave to cool completely before slicing in squares, devour.
They are not Terry’s they’re mine!
Today’s post starts with a thank you. Thank you so much to Thoughtful Bread for my tickets to visit the Cake and Bake show yesterday. I had fully intended getting myself organised with tickets but for some reason or another that resolution fell by the wayside and it didn’t happen. Perhaps I didn’t really make the effort as I had a preconception that Cake and Bake was more about sugar craft than baking, and as you can see from Mintcustard I am more about taste than titivation.
How wrong could I have been. That’s not to say that certain areas of the Earls Court exhibition hall didn’t appear to be covered in a fine layer of glitter, and believe me I was strangely drawn to all the sugar craft gadgetry available. However my first love is baking, and this was well served too.
I popped into the Clandestine Cake Club stand, as a founder member of the Epsom slice, I had to. I assume each local group of the clandestine cake club is a slice, maybe they are a wodge or a portion? Does anyone know? CatchKitey was there, resplendent in a CCC apron ready to convert the uninitiated. A table groaning with cake made me feel as if I’d stumbled a cross a meeting at the event. Now there is an idea Lynn. Let’s take over Earls Court for the worlds biggest cake club meeting.
I treated my starter to a new sourdough basket and a dough scraper, from Bakery Bits. Fanny’s offspring need to rest and prove somewhere more fitting that a wok lined with a really elderly almost threadbare t towel. I was tempted by all the flours on offer too but for once I had my sensible head on and realised in time that my trip home via the district line would be made even harder if I was carting about six 1.5 kilo bags of flour!
During lunch, a peperoncino and tomato topped bruschetta ( a bargain at £3), I watched Rosemary Schrager bake bread with style and aplomb. Every theatre was packed but the use of additional AV around the shows allowed those of us at the back to still capture the details.
Bought some chilli salt, for my addicted husband, and succumbed to a little sugar craft bow making gadget, although if truth be told it is actually for my daughter’s food tech exam.
As a show there was a real buzz in the room. Earls Court is a tired old lady but she had a certain spring in her step yesterday. Almost everyone was with a friend, met a friend or made new ones it seems. So it was for me. Lovely to meet Miss Sue Flay at CCC. I had the chance to see many talented bakers, well known and otherwise, being genuinely excited about passing on their knowledge and enthusiasm to others.
I had a great time, and will certainly go next year. Yes there were lots of cup cake stalls, yes you could buy things you are never likely to use once you get them home, yes I was worn out when i got home but it has made me get up at 7am this morning to bake bread. That after all is what I wanted from the experience and I got it.
Did you visit Cake and Bake, what did you think? More importantly what did you come away with?
The weather has become chilly and I have the start of a sore throat. I need a pick me up and chicken noodle soup does the trick. I have resorted to the packet variety but making your own is easy and cheap too.
I know, I know, I do bang on about not wasting food but in my mind not to use up the leftover chicken carcass from Sunday’s roast would be a crime. I can also hear the voices of my late Dad and Nan tutting at me from beyond the grave if I even think to slide the bones into the food waste bin rather than towards a big pan full of water. Chicken stock is often an essential component of many of the meals we make, why not effectively create your own for free from leftovers? I am easily pleased when it comes to food but the joy of knowing there is a big bowl of jellified chicken stock in my fridge brings a smile to my face. Better than having to rootle around in the cupboard for a cube or little tub, and I know exactly what is in it. I’m going to share how I make my stock, if your method differs please add your method as a comment then we can all help each other. By the way, I have no pressure cooker, following a childhood incident with rice, in a tiny galley kitchen. makes me quake even now! Ingredients – basic chicken stock
- 1 chicken carcass, large pieces of meat and skin removed. (I also remove and lemon or garlic I may have “inserted” as this spoils this stock flavour)
- 1 onion peeled and halved
- 2 carrots, topped and tailed and halved
- 1 celery stalk or a few celery tops
- 1 tsp black peppercorns, I crush mine gently with the flat edge of a knife to just crack them.
Place all the above ingredients into a large pan, cover with water until the carcass is just covered with water. slowly bring to a simmer, reduce the heat until the surface of the water just shivers with anticipation. Leave for several hours, I usually start at lunch time and the stock is ready for tea if I need it. I’d say 3 to 6 hours. Strain into a bowl, leave to cool, skin any chicken fat from the surface and refrigerate the stock in a covered bowl. Keep the chicken fat too if you want. Use within 48 hours. If you cant do that stock freezes very well, You can make your own stock cubes by reducing down the stock until it is a third of the original volume. Pour into ice cube trays or bags and freeze. I deliberately don’t salt my stock as I like to season when in the final recipe. Chicken stock is so versatile. If you want to use the stock in an Asian recipe, then make your stock with ginger, garlic and lemon grass as flavourings. You might like to make a version with a scotch bonnet pepper or a birds eye chilli. Up to you really what you do, just do it!
Chicken Noodle soup. ( actually it is tiny pasta soup so you can use vermicelli, orzo, stellini what ever your family tradition is.)
1 mug of chicken stock per person, 1/2 a carrot thinly sliced per person 1/4 onion finely diced 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, pressed or ground to a paste 1 cupped palm full of noodles per person (see photo) any leftover chicken shredded. (if you don’t have any don’t fret!) salt and pepper to season If you have a mushroom or two slice it thinly and throw it in at the end, similarly a few spinach leaves just wilted in at the final moment is delicious. You what you have a go with it. A few parsley leaves look very pretty too. tsp of chicken fat or oil per person.
- Take a tsp of chicken fat or oil and heat in a large pan. Gently fry the onion and the garlic until soft and translucent.
- Pour in the chicken stock, slide in the carrots. After two minutes tip in the noodles. Stir to make sure the noodles haven’t clumped and leave until the noodles are 1 minute away from being cooked through. Add the shredded chicken to warm through. If you want to add mushrooms or spinach, or in my case carrots, now is the time.
- Taste and season with salt and more black pepper.
- Serve in a warm bowl, with a chunk of bread to mop up every last little bit.
I would heartily recommend popping into your local independent shops as they may well have some fabulous ingredients. My vermicelli came from a nearby middle eastern shop/deli. They are brilliant for dried fruit, nuts and spices too.
A collision of two awareness campaigns gives my blog post today a little more shape. Not that I need a reason to post but you know, I often find I sometimes need a push in a certain direction. You may well be aware that I make a big effort not to waste food, I love to forage if I can and I am certainly all about food for free. I have posted a number of blackberry recipes with my purple stained bramble scratched picking fingers. I’m on the lookout for elderberries and sloes at the moment too.
Another food for free that I have been cultivating for the past year or so is Fanny my sourdough starter. Using just the yeast from the air she was born and now she lives and breathes. The bread we make together is sublime, but I do hate to throw away part of her every day she grows and multiplies. I have frozen some, dehydrated more and given away lots but there comes a point when scraping her into the food waste bin is the only option. NOT ANY MORE.
Whilst looking for recipes to extend my repertoire during Sourdough September I happened to come across a recipe for crumpets. I have made crumpets previously using conventional yeast, although true to my love of wasting less I used old tuna cans rather than crumpet rings to from the crumpets. This sourdough recipe is not only much quicker but also utilises the excess starter that would otherwise go to waste. Excellent, what a way to champion both Sourdough September and zero waste week, and have a splendid breakfast into the bargain. This crumpet recipe from King Arthur Flour is very speedy so I decided on pikelets rather than crumpets purely on the grounds of greed.
They were made and eaten in a flash, with butter and home made bramble jelly they were divine.
To the cup of starter you have in your bowl, sprinkle over the surface 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and baking soda. Whisk these in thoroughly and watch what happens. Voom! Chemistry at work producing millions of carbon dioxide bubbles to leaven these pancakes.
If you have crumpet rings (about 1 inch high and 4 inches in diameter — clean tuna cans with tops and bottoms removed will work fine, as I have said previously), grease them lightly and place them on a lightly greased spider or skillet. Fill the rings with about 1/4 inch of batter and cook it over low heat until the tops are set and full of holes. Remove the rings and flip the crumpets over for a minute or two. I was far too impatient so I made pikelets, free form crumpets, the taste is the same but the lack of a uniform look would give Paul Hollywood nightmares!
After they’ve finished cooking on the griddle stockpile them and then pop them under the grill to brown and crisp. Serve them with butter and whatever jam you’ve put up this season. You can also cool them, bag them, and freeze them to bring out and toast later.
Sourdough doughnuts are my next challenge. Anyone recommend a recipe for those please?
I have to say if you offered me a cronut I’d eat it. To be honest offer me anything edible and I’ll give it a go, but the portmanteau food I have wanted to try for a while is a duffin. A combination of a muffins and doughnut, what’s not to like. Of course a doughnut needs a filling. At this harvest time of year, toffee apple it is then.
Waitrose came to my rescue with the duffin recipe itself, and I fiddled about in the kitchen to make the toffee apple.
180g butter melted
150g natural yogurt
300g self raising flour
275g caster sugar
1 Bramley apple peeled and chopped
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp cream
Heat the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan until melted and it begins to caramelise. Tip in the apple chunks, butter and cream and cook out a little more. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to190c gas 5.
Brush the holes of a 12 hole muffin tin with melted butter. Put the tin in the oven to Pre heat.
Beat together the yogurt and eggs then stir in the cooled melted butter. Mix together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour in the wet ingredients and mix together.
Take the muffin tin from the oven and fill each hole two thirds full of mix. Add a tea spoon of toffee apple onto the batter, top up each hole with the remaining batter.
Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.
Take from the oven, cool for 5 minutes in the pan and then roll the muffins in caster sugar whilst warm and serve.
Sit still, with a coffee and do not move for at least 20 minutes!